Portrait of Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys Claims NHM “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” Award

“The Golden Couple”, a photo-portrait of snub-nosed monkeys by Dutch wildlife photographer Marsel van Oosten, has won the top award in the 54th annual wildlife photographic contest at the Natural History Museum in London.  Wildlife photographers from 95 countries competed for the prize.  “The Golden Couple” was chosen by judges  especially for its subtle artistic imagery, stunning colour and soft lighting, reminding the viewer that nature is precious.

The endangered (Red Listed) golden snub-nosed monkey is found in it’s only habitat – the small area of temperate forest in south-west China.  Diurnal, the species lives in groups of about 20 to 30 individuals in winter and as many as 200 in summer – groups often combine, numbering 500 to 600 individuals that can more easily ward off predators.  Diet includes pine needles, flower buds, tender bamboo shoots and fruits.  Dense fur protects against subzero winters.  A flat muzzle may also aid in combating extremely cold temperatures.  It is estimated that between 8,000 and 15,000 of these primates are left in the wild.

The exhibition at the Natural History Museum will run to 30 June, 2019, and then travel to the U. S.




Guide to the Wildlife of Southwest China, W. McShea and Sheng Li, 2018.



In Memory of Koko

Gorillas in Films and Reality

Primates have featured in films for decades – the gorilla a leading “actor”.  Sadly, because of a lack of understanding on the part of writers and producers, the gorilla was most often portrayed as a monstrous killer.  As early as 1908, the Conan Doyle silent film, “The Great Murder Mystery” featured a killer gorilla.  Through the 1920’s and 1930’s numerous films continued to characterise gorillas as fearsome predators, including:  “The Gorilla” (silent film, 1927), “Stark Mad” (1929), “The Gorilla” (1930), the original “King Kong” (1933 – inspired a number of remakes, the most recent, 2005), “House of Mystery” (1934), the popular Clyde Beatty offering, “The Lost Jungle” (1934), in which a gorilla guards a lost city and its treasure, and “The Gorilla” (1939).  Thankfully, primatologist/naturalist Dian Fossey (1932-1985) – studying endangered gorillas in the mountain forests of Rwanda (1960’s to 1980’s) – identified true characteristics of gorillas.  Gorillas, while all individuals, are mainly shy and rarely aggressive, vegetarian members of family groups.  In Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey relates – on first contact with gorillas – it was the shyness of behavior that most impressed her.  David Attenborough helped to reinforce this fact in a segment of “Life on Earth” (1979), when he was filmed with playful baby mountain gorillas in Rwanda.  And Koko, the female west lowland gorilla raised by American animal psychologist Francine Patterson, from 1971 to Koko’s sad death recently at age 46, was another proof of gentle behavior.  From 1984 to 2015, Koko adopted and helped care for five kittens.  And Koko’s calmness and intelligence were basic to her ability to learn/use “Gorilla Sign Language” (GSL).

Today, endangered gorillas face numerous threats – habitat loss, poaching, political instability, rabies, and human viruses/health threats.  However, groups such as Gorilla Doctors work tirelessly to save the lives of wild mountain and eastern lowland gorillas.  Gorilla Doctors international team of veterinarians provides hands-on care to sick and injured gorillas in the wild.  And events such as the “Great Gorilla Run” in London (16th annual run, 2018) help to raise funds.


See also:  http://www.koko.org


BBC Earth – “The Great Gorilla Wipeout”, by Nick Funnel

Gorillas in the Mist, Dian Fossey, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2000

Mountain Gorillas, G. Eckhart  and A. Lanjouw, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2008


Ancient Monkey Import

A rare example of a primate trade item – a find from the ancient city of Susa, modern Iran, probably imported from Central Asia or the Indus Valley – can be seen in the Louvre, Paris.  The small, red limestone monkey statuette – possibly a representation of an Asian macaque – is shown seated, and dates from the 3rd millennium BCE.  Ancient Near Eastern  (cylinder and other) seals also depict monkeys squatting or seated on stools.


See:    http://www.louvre.fr/en   (official site) – see page 20, Near Eastern Antiquities, or

see the work in the Louvre, Richelieu Wing, Room 231.

Zoopharmacognosy – red-fronted lemurs self-medicating with millipede secretions

I have been meaning to post a link to a new study of zoopharmacognosy in red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons), but have been away from the website for a wee while due to some health issues. Apologies for the lack of posts from me over the past months. The research was conducted by Louise R. Peckre, Charlotte Defolie, Peter M. Kappeler and Claudia Fichtel and published online in Primates Journal, 30 July 2018: 

Potential self-medication using millipede secretions in red-fronted lemurs: combining anointment and ingestion for a joint action against gastrointestinal parasites?


Self-anointing, referring to the behaviour of rubbing a material object or foreign substance over different parts of the body, has been observed in several vertebrate species, including primates. Several functions, such as detoxifying a rich food source, social communication and protection against ectoparasites, have been proposed to explain this behaviour. Here, we report observations of six wild red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) of both sexes and different age classes anointing their perianal-genital areas and tails with chewed millipedes. Several individuals also ingested millipedes after prolonged chewing. In light of the features of the observed interactions with millipedes, and the nature and potential metabolic pathways of the released chemicals, we suggest a potential self-medicative function. Specifically, we propose that anointing combined with the ingestion of millipedes’ benzoquinone secretions by red-fronted lemurs may act in a complementary fashion against gastrointestinal parasite infections, and more specifically Oxyuridae nematodes, providing both prophylactic and therapeutic effects.


Peckre, L.R., Defolie, C., Kappeler, P.M. et al. Primates (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-018-0674-7

Publisher Name: Springer JapanPrint ISSN: 0032-8332Online ISSN: 1610-7365


Spotlight on Orangutans

Susan Shimeld, wildlife artist/natural history illustrator based at Larmer Tree Studio in Wiltshire, UK, creates paintings and drawings that focus on animals, including primates, especially endangered species.  Shimeld has worked with Greenpeace, and as Wildlife Coordinator for Friends of the Earth, she wrote articles on animal welfare – she has protested the use of animals in entertainment.  Originally self-taught, Shimeld more recently graduated from a natural history illustration course of study at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design, UK.  Orangutans have provided a major subject for the artist.  She was invited to exhibit work such as “Baby Orang” at the Orangutan Foundation, London, and has exhibited in other galleries in the UK.




Graphic Primate Portraits

Self-taught wildlife artist Chris Wright resides in Surrey, UK.  As Senior Programmes Officer for the Born Free Foundation, Chris specialized in the conservation of endangered species.  He has traveled through Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America, and has drawn numerous animals – often, primates.  His pencil drawings include: “Juvenile Chimpanzee”, “Orang-utan Mother and Baby”, “Hanuman Langur”, “Crab-eating Macaques”, and “Titus”, a silverback gorilla who was featured in a BBC documentary.  Chris has received awards, has exhibited at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, UK, and at numerous galleries in England and Scotland.  A percentage of the artist’s sales goes to help wildlife in Born Free projects.  Works auctioned have raised funds for other wildlife organizations, including: The Sumatran Orang-utan Society, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and WildAid.  Chris Wright’s work can be seen on his website and should not be missed –     www.cwright.co.uk


Total Number of Mountain Gorillas Rises Above 1,000 — Primatology.net

Despite concerning data in the study detailing the pressures on and decline of many primate populations in Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and DRC, recent surveys confirm a rise in the Virunga mountain gorilla population in DRC –

Positive news on the conservation front, where the number of mountain gorillas is over a 1,000 individuals. The survey found the Virunga population has risen to 604 among in 41 social groups… Compared to the 480 individuals counted in the last survey in 2010. The only other place mountain gorillas survive is in Uganda’s Bwindi […]

via Population of Total Number of Mountain Gorillas Rises Above 1,000 — Primatology.net

Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the DRC: critical to alloprimate survival

A new study, Primates in Peril (Estrada et al 2018), published on 15 June focuses on the countries of Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 65% of all the worlds primates are found but where 60% are experiencing varying degrees of threat from human activities (threatened, endangered, critically endangered on the IUCN Red List). The research identifies loss and fragmentation of habitat as key to declining populations of primates in Brazil, Madagascar and Indonesia, while the greatest pressure on primates in DRC is the bushmeat trade. The article is open access.


Red ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra), Madagascar

Estrada A, Garber PA, Mittermeier RA, Wich S, Gouveia S, Dobrovolski R, Nekaris KAI, Nijman V, Rylands AB, Maisels F, Williamson EA, Bicca-Marques J, Fuentes A, Jerusalinsky L, Johnson S, Rodrigues de Melo F, Oliveira L, Schwitzer C, Roos C, Cheyne SM, Martins Kierulff MC, Raharivololona B, Talebi M, Ratsimbazafy J, Supriatna J, Boonratana R, Wedana M, Setiawan A. (2018Primates in peril: the significance of Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for global primate conservationPeerJ 6:e4869

The death of Koko

We are very, very sad to learn of the passing of Koko the gorilla. Koko died in her sleep at the age of 46.  An excerpt from The Gorilla Foundation press release:

“Koko’s capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions. She has been featured in multiple documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic twice. The first cover, in October of 1978, featured a photograph Koko had taken of herself in a mirror. The second issue, in January of 1985, included the story of Koko and her kitten, All Ball. Following the article, the book Koko’s Kitten was published and continues to be used in elementary schools worldwide. Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world.”